A young man with a disability is on a mission to educate others about the importance of independent living. Carson Covey has lived with cerebral palsy since birth. But it’s never stopped him from leading an active life.
And increasingly, one devoted to advocacy for the rights of the disabled. Covey uses a communication device to give commands to his service dog, Tessa.
When we visited, Covey commanded Tessa to “Tug!” Tessa grabbed a rope with her teeth that opened a sliding door. The dog’s support enables Covey to go back and forth between his small house and the main house at the ranch south of Chatfield State Park where Covey now lives on his own.
“Good girl!” Covey typed on his talker, celebrating Tessa’s service.
Tessa is helping Covey to live a more independent life.
And new, wider ramps recently installed by the Home Builders Foundation make it possible for Covey and his service dog to move about the property in synch.
Carson appreciates how small accommodations like a wider doorway and ramp can make a big difference.
“That’s exactly why I’ve become a disability advocate,” he told CBS News Colorado. Continuing, “I got into this wonderful field that we call ‘advocacy’ due to recently losing two very good friends. Their dream was to have safe housing for the intellectually disabled and the DD [developmentally disabled] community.”
Covey’s mom, Theresa Major, told us, “Carson is one of those people who’d rather be on his own and try things on his own. So having the dog and just having independence here coming and going has been life-changing for him. He doesn’t want to rely on people for the things he things he’s able to achieve on his own and he’s very motivated to make it work no matter how hard it is and this has made it much more simple in the sense that he can come and go on his own without my assistance.”
“It’s freedom,” Covey said about how much he relishes his independence.
He operates the automatic doors and window blinds and opens the refrigerator in his house so Tessa can get him a snack.
“Get,” he commands. Tessa is not Covey’s first service dog. He’s still breaking her in.
“She’s the third one but she’s getting there,” he said.
We caught up with him on his way to greet a horse therapy student via a barn, heading to the riding arena.
“Horses bring kids to life,” Covey says.
Last year, Covey was selected to participate in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities program at the University of Colorado. He just completed the program and is currently a self-advocate coach.
To date, the Foundation has provided modifications for the homes of more than 2,000 people, impacting the lives of thousands more.
The Home Builders modify about a dozen homes every month to give people like Covey the ability to achieve greater mobility and safety.
“How much their life is just a little bit easier throughout the day with the addition of a ramp and in Carson’s case, the addition of a ramp that is wide enough for his service dog,” Lauren Knudsen, the foundation’s development director, said.
It costs about $5,000 to install a single ADA-compliant ramp.
Since 2011, the Home Builders Foundation in Colorado has installed ramps estimated at $950,000 at no cost to the people who use them.
Covey is hoping his work can improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Coloradans living with disabilities.
He’s fueled by the memory of his good friends, Mark and Eric.
“I am working to keep my friends’ dream alive. I have a lot of passions in this field. One of them is housing,” Covey said.